Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Heading for the Homestretch

Hey everyone, it’s A.C. here! What’s happening?

I like making the trip to New York and Chicago. As far as New York, for me, it’s like coming back home because I played in Madison Square Garden back in high school. I played against Kareem here and it’s always great to come back. People here in New York love the game.

I’ve always liked the way they have the lighting at the Garden. It’s dark in the bowl and it puts emphasis on the court and it’s more of a theatrical effect.

And, of course, Chicago, there’s so much history there. Back when we finally turned it around in Cleveland and, of course, in the Lenny Wilkens Era and with Jordan – these two teams were always battling for Divisional and Conference supremacy.

These are two legendary franchises and it’s always good to come in here and play because the fans understand the game. They know a good pass or defensive play and they cheer it. Regardless of whether LeBron is playing against the Knicks, when he went off for 50, they ate it up.

That’s what a good crowd is all about.

After LeBron’s 50-point performance on Wednesday night, the MVP argument is really starting to heat up. It’s boiling down to a two-man race between him and Kobe, and in my mind, I think LeBron has the inside track.

First of all, his statistics are better than Kobe’s, but that’s not the entire story.

I think it comes into focus when you look at LeBron’s body of work this year – with the injuries we’ve had and the lack of continuity. We haven’t had our starting lineup from last year’s Finals team together but for only around 20 games – and he’s managed to keep the Cavaliers afloat. And now we’ve made major changes to our lineup and he still hasn’t missed a beat.

It all points to LeBron as being the Most Valuable Player.

Granted, Kobe’s had a great year and his team is leading the Western Conference. But, again, I think when you look at the entire body of work and look at the injury situation that we’ve had – LeBron has to be MVP.

Those major changes – the four guys Cleveland got in the blockbuster trade – are still fitting in and it’s still a work in progress. But I think that they’ve started to change the culture of the team a little bit, as far as the Cavaliers are becoming a no-nonsense type of team.

On defense, I think Cleveland has really ratcheted up the defensive efforts, because right now, offensively, we’re not clicking. But we’re still winning and over .500 with the new guys because we are playing defense. And I really believe that once Ben gets acclimated to the team and everybody’s personality, he’ll be more vocal.

Naturally, I think Joe Smith is already been one of the keys to the deal, and he’s proving it night-in and night-out. Delonte is a “push” guard who – once he and LeBron get on the same page – it’s going to be nice. Wally is still trying to get his jumper going consistently. But it’s coming along now, you can see it.

The thing is: all these guys are trying to re-establish themselves in the league. Once they ship you to Seattle or do what they did to Ben in Chicago, you start to lose your edge. These guys are trying to regain their status in the league. And they’ll do that. When I say a player is “hungry” – look at these four guys, and that’s what I mean.

The Cavaliers will have to fit some of their guys back in when they return from injury, but of course, that’s a great problem to have.

Sasha will take over at two-guard when he comes back and that’ll strengthen us off the bench. You’ll have Devin coming into the game to replace him. It’s all going to fit.

Boobie will come off the bench behind Delonte, which is great because Boobie gives us a great punch off the bench. (You win in this league by having a bench that can produce.) And when you look at what we have coming off the bench – Anderson, Devin, Wally, Damon, Joe Smith and Boobie – that’s as good as a team that could pretty much start in this league. And that’s how we’re going to win.

That’s why I’m excited to get back to 100 percent. And that gives me all the ammo I need to argue LeBron for MVP. We not only stayed afloat, but are still well in line for one of the top four spots in the East with all these variables that have affected us all season. That’s proof of what LeBron is.

And I’m not just excited for the Cavaliers at this time of year. You know I get fired up when the NCAA Tournament rolls around in college hoops. Tournament time is on us and I’m starting to percolate a little bit.

Friday is the anniversary of when I scored 61 in the Tourney. It’s a good feeling this time of year. I’ll be hanging out with some of my buddies and that first Thursday, and we might watch every game through the weekend.

There’s nothing like the NCAA Tournament – I love it!

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